Despite those weak public workouts this week, Muhammad Ali is still the 2 1/2-to-1 favorite to snatch back the heavyweight boxing championship from Leon Spinks Friday night.
Reflecting the cold-hearted realists who bet only from the pocketbook and not from sentiment, Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder reported yesterday from Miami: "All will pull it out by decision, through pure heart and knowledge. He can't execute with the speed he used to show.
"Spinks will be going in with pure heart, too, without Ali's knowledge."
Why will it be any different than it was Feb. 15 - just seven months ago - when Spinks outlasted Ali?
Take the word of Gene Kilroy, who has been privy to Ali's innermost attitudes abut boxing for the last 10 years, as his business manager.
"Ali can always reach down into his trick bag when the pressure is on," Kilroy said. "He's so good to people that maybe it's God's way of repaying him.
Don't pay attention to those sparring sessions here in New Orlean. You should have seen him at his Deer Lake training camp. He was the artist - Picasso - there. He danced like Fred Astaire.
"He has his own private little mosque there. He goes there for an hour in the mornings and collects his thoughts for an hour. He says, 'You don't go to God just when you want favors.'
"He regarded that off day here on Monday as just a bad day at Black Rock.' Thank God he got it out of his system before Friday night. He's never been so serious, despite all that jive on the stage here for the fans.
"He's resting more this time. He's living at a private residence. His wife is here, but she's staying at a hotel. When you get older, staying up late bothers you.'
"A game isn't won on the field, but in practice. A fight isn't won on the day of the fight. He has been in training since April, except for 29 days, including the trip to Russia. But he ran on those 29 days."
Ali struggled in his last several bouts, having been taken 15 rounds to decisions in five of the last six, by Jimmy Young, Ken Norton, Alfredo Evangelist, Earnie Shavers and in his split-decision loss to Spinks. He may be in better condition this time but that may not restore the withering of his reflexes at age 36.
"His ring ability will cover that, and his legs," insider Kilroy said. "If he could go 15 round against Spinks in Las Vegas, he can do 20 this time. He did the last five there on pride.
"Vince Lombardi used to say, 'Fatigue will make a coward out of the bravest man.' But Ali almost won. Why are the odds 1 to 5 in favor of Ali?
"We got rid of the bottle Spinks had in his corner for the first fight, wheatever was in it. Now he has to rely on disco music. As Ali says: 'We're in good shape because the Disco Duck can't bring his disco music into the ring with him. He trains, east and sleeps with it.'
"If you had to create a body for a heavyweight boxing champion, you create Ali - his height, his thin waist, his long, strong legs.
"Ali won't be on the ropes this time, and that's what SPinks' people are training him for. Spinks can't hit like George Foreman, Joe Frazier or Oscar Bonavena. He isn't as ring-slick as Jerry Quarry. He's not unorthodox like Ken Norton."
In view of Ali having to take his bouts to decisions lately, is he really the hard puncher he once appeared to be, in light of the saying in boxing that natural puncher never loses?
Kilroy: "Ali has to combine his strength and speed of hand to be a puncher - speed times strength equals power.
"He sparred just one day for the first Spinks sout. On January 17, his birthday, he ran one mile with (entertainer) Kris Kristofferson and was tired. He thought he only had to show up to knock Spinks out in the eighth round.
"Now, we tell him he might be running too much, and he says, 'I know my body.'"